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Salt, is it bad or good?

Author Damien Wilde
Posted On 30th April 2014

SaltOver a decade ago steps were taken by the government and health agencies to push food companies into reducing salt levels in processed foods. The result of that became apparent in 2011 when figures were released that as a nation we were eating 15% less than we did eight years previously in 2003. Researchers into the subject say that this has led to improvements in our health, statements which are backed up by fact: over the same period there was a 42% decline in deaths due to strokes and a 40% drop in deaths due to cardiovascular diseases.

But some scientists remain sceptical about salt; even though figures indicate that a large quantity of salt in our diets is bad, possibly fatal over a long period of time.

An oft quoted study conducted by the American National Institutes of Health in 2001 found that those who were on low-sodium diets had significantly lower blood pressure levels than the opposing group. The reasoning behind this is that the more salt that is consumed, the better our body becomes at retaining water which, whilst not immediately sounding entirely bad, in turn raises blood pressure: if too much salt is ingested over a prolonged time period then high blood pressure becomes a chronic, sometimes deadly problem.

Other studies have failed to replicate these results. Three years ago two separate meta-analyses both came to the conclusion that there was not enough information and evidence to support the claim that a reduction of salt is of benefit to our health whilst the same study that provided the figures given in the first paragraph mused that other factors such as a decline in smoking were likely to have played a substantial role in the decrease of deaths.

And some researchers have gone a step or two further, claiming that lower the intake of salt increases the risk of a person dying from health-related issues. The body does need a certain level of sodium, that is given, though too little and the kidney can secrete an enzyme that increases blood pressure.

It seems that there is a barrage of information on salt flying around, coming in from both directions. Some empirically lecture us that salt is bad and a low salt intake is the key to good health and others stand opposite informing us all that low sodium levels increase the risk of heart failure. Nobody knows where to stand.

As ever it seems that common sense should be applied.

Then again even that message might stand against the current health initiatives.

image: Pixabay